This week, 180 faculty members and administrators from 86 colleges and universities gathered at Barnard for the 11th Annual “Reacting to the Past” Institute. Pioneered in the late 1990s by history professor Mark C. Carnes, “RTTP” is an innovative teaching method consisting of elaborate games, set in the past, in which students and faculty are assigned roles informed by classic texts.  Class sessions are run almost entirely by students, with guidance by instructors – this unique teaching style promotes engagement with big ideas, and improves intellectual and academic skills. 

The first RTTP Institute, held in 2000, drew 30 faculty from 15 schools.  Since then, RTTP has been adopted by faculty and colleges ranging from the Australian National University to the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland, from the University of Oregon to Greenfield Community College in Massachusetts.  This year’s Institute features three days of game sessions, drawing up on a range of historical moments and eras including The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 B.C.; Henry VIII and the Reformation Parliament; Patriots, Loyalists, and Revolution in New York City, 1775-76; and Forest Diplomacy: War & Peace on the Colonial Frontier, 1756-57. 

One game featured during this week’s Institute is the Struggle for Palestine in 1936, which tackles a topic that dominates the headlines today.  As shown in the following video, the Struggle game brings students face to face with the origins of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as it unfolded during the period of the British Mandate. 

For more information on Reacting to the Past, read an article by Prof. Mark Carnes in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Read a review of the 11th Annual Reacting to the Past Institute on the Rubin Museum of Art blog.